The Rose Walks

This is a proposal for the premiere at Piksel of a work by Tim Shaw and John Bowers that will combine live steamed and recorded video and sound installation, walking-exploration around the city of Bergen, field recordings, and spontaneous open-air sound performances throughout the duration of the festival. The work builds on pieces the proposers have shown before at Piksel in its engagement with the local environment of the city in an open, participatory fashion, crossing the boundaries between installation, performance and the walking arts: notably Bergen Invocation at Piksel 2015 and LOOPS at Piksel 2020. The current proposal extends those pieces by incorporating mobile live media streaming and improvised sound manipulation together with novel strategies for coordinating exploration, performance and exhibition.

The Rose Walks will present itself as a two screen installation with a four channel sound system, with stereo sound for each screen. Shaw and Bowers will live-stream video and sound with one screen and stereo speaker pair associated with each of us. We will each carry a camera which can be variably mounted (on our bodies as we walk or showing a selected scene) and a stereo pair of high quality microphones which will feed mobile sound processing software we have created using the open source language Pure Data. The mobile sound processing, video and live streaming apparatus we will use builds upon Shaw’s Ambulation system (see elsewhere in this application for further details).

We will set out on coordinated walks across the city of Bergen and the surrounding area. Each walk will start by the screens and sound system we are using in our installation at the Piksel exhibition space, go live there, and return there, when the stream will finish. We will record each walk and when we are not walking the installation will show the set of recordings that have been made since the opening of Piksel 2021, looped. This set-up will provide the basis for incremental experimentation throughout Piksel.

We will experiment with multiple possibilities for what happens between the start and end points of our walks. We might walk together in which case the screens/speaker pairs will present related views/soundscapes, albeit ones which might be disjointed through varied network delays. We might walk in opposite directions from the exhibition space in which case, for example, the screens might show contrasting visual intensities and shadowplays as we orient in opposite directions to the low winter sun. We might intertwine our walks, coming together and parting, and experiment with how the view in one screen references the other. We might find a scene or object of common interest and explore it from different angles and pick up the ambient sound from different, yet related locations. We might stay within the exhibition space and, self-referentially, stream the exhibition to itself, and include a classical feedback interlude as we apply this principle to our own piece. We can contrast rest with motion. We can walk at varied times of day. There can be long and short walks. And so forth.

Embedded within each walk will be improvised performances where we live process environmental sound. Some of these might also involve the construction of ad hoc instruments from found materials we encounter along the way. A big stick that is dragged as we go, railings that can be played as a found metallophone, pedestrian crossing audio warnings that we can process to make a found synthesiser. And so forth.

For at least some of our walks, we would welcome being accompanied by other attendees to Piksel. This need not be scheduled formally within the Piksel program. We could invite people in an ad hoc fashion or post start times for our walks where the installation is shown. Co-walkers would also be invited to contribute to the improvised performance embedded within the walk.

As the days of Piksel unfold, the ‘archive’ of recordings shown in the exhibition space will grow. We would also add to the exhibition space in at least two other ways: with found objects scavenged from our walks and with drawings and mappings of our routes.

The Rose Walks is a deliberately open work. In many respects, it has a documentary character while gently referencing questions of liveness and its technological mediation, the relationships between performance and fixed media, and the place of the exhibition space in relation to the outside world. As all our perambulations will have a ‘circular walk’ form, starting and finishing in the same place, as they accumulate, they will create a classical symbol when mapped: a rose-form with many loops of different sizes issuing from and returning to a centre. As well as giving us a title, the ambiguity of the rose as a symbol within ‘the language of flowers’ expresses an openness to what we might find on our walks through Bergen, from the red rose of passion and solidarity, through the blue rose of mystery, the white rose of naivety, and the black rose of death.

Tim Shaw is an artist and researcher working predominately with sound and new media. His work uses a variety
of self-constructed technologies to playback and manipulate recordings to create complex sonic environments and
by appropriating communication technologies to explore how these devices change the way we experience the
world. Shaw’s background in recording sound led to his creative use of field recordings. Particularly interested in
the relationships between site, sound and technologies, Shaw presents work through electro-acoustic audio
performances, installations, walks and site-responsive interventions. His practice attempts to expose the
mechanics of systems through sound to reveal the hidden aspects of environments and technologies. His practice
is situated within sound and media art.

John Bowers